In his early work, Seligman proposed a shift in the practice of psychology from focusing on difficulties and ways to ‘solve’ them, to instead focusing on the things that were already positive and finding ways to increase those. He called this new approach Positive Psychology. Seligman proposed that the ultimate goal of Positive Psychology is the attainment of happiness and life satisfaction. He believed that happiness could be analyzed into three measurable elements: positive emotion, engagement and meaning.
Seligman has since expanded his study to wellbeing. With the consideration that individuals have experiences that, while important, may not fit with the idea of ‘happiness’, he re-envisioned the goal of Positive Psychology as ‘flourishing’. Seligman’s Wellbeing Theory is the result. It is comprised of five measurable elements, using the acronym PERMA:
As Falk explains in his work on wellbeing, it is a state that is about achieving balance among the elements, and it is always in flux. For Seligman, each of these elements is pursued for its own merits, separated from each of the others, and that each is measured separately. Collectively each element is a part of a larger theory.
Seligman, Martin E.P. Seligman (2011). Flourish. Atria paperbacks